As the Carolina Panthers’ season continues to deteriorate, coach Ron Rivera knows his job is as much about coping with the emotional welfare of his team as the physical.
“You are concerned about that, the mental health of the team,” Rivera said Monday, a day after the Panthers lost to the Seattle Seahawks 40-7, dropping Carolina’s record to 4-8. “We’re disappointed. Our expectations were so high. But this is the situation we’re in and there’s no turning around. We’ve got to go out and do what we’re capable of and make the best of it.”
We’re disappointed. Our expectations were so high. But this is the situation we’re in and there’s no turning around. We’ve got to go out and do what we’re capable of and make the best of it.
Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, on his team’s 4-8 record
The Panthers have underperformed after playing in last season’s Super Bowl. They’ve been unable to overcome a rash of injuries – most notably along the offensive line and to All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly – and have lost five games by three points or less.
“Losing five games by a field goal or less makes it a tough pill to swallow,” Rivera said. “But you are what your record says you are.”
All that – capped most recently by the blowout in Seattle – takes a toll on a team.
“I’m concerned about the team more than anything – the players and coaches in the locker room,” Rivera said. “I thought we had the makings of a good team. We had a good (training) camp and we all had grand expectations. I really wanted to get back to the Super Bowl. But we haven’t capitalized.”
The Panthers are three games behind NFC South leader Atlanta (7-5) with four games to play, the next one at home Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. So, while not yet mathematically eliminated from winning a fourth consecutive division title or making the playoffs, Rivera understands that realistically those postseason chances are gone.
That doesn’t mean Rivera will sacrifice the final four games to get a head start on preparing for the 2017 season. He said he expects to continue to play the team’s front-line players the rest of the way.
“We’ll evaluate eventually,” he said. “We’ve got four (games) left. We’ll see where we are and what we have to improve on.”
One thing is for sure: The Panthers again won’t post back-to-back winning seasons, something they’ve never done in their 22-year history.
“It is concerning,” Rivera said. “We want to be consistent. We’ve won three (straight) divisions, but it’s about having a winning record.”